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Road work a topic at McDonough meeting

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

McDonough does not have immediate plans for pedestrian-friendly road improvements in one of the city's older districts, a city official told a group of residents recently, but a councilman said he would work to get sidewalks along one main road in the area.

On Tuesday, city officials held the first in a series of district-based town hall meetings designed to share information with, and get feedback from, residents living in the city.

McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland, District I City Council Member Rufus Stewart, City Administrator Billy Beckett, Police Chief Preston Dorsey, and Public Works Director Lee Hearn were on hand for the meeting with residents at Henry County Middle School.

Andy Calhoun, a Greenway Park Drive resident and a former Henry County commissioner, asked for road improvements, including drainage work, paving and sidewalks, along Phillips Drive and in an older part of the city.

Although it is not on the map anymore, Calhoun said the district begins at the intersection of Ga. Highway 20/81 and Phillips Drive, and includes all of Greenway Park Drive, to Ga. Highway 42.

"Those are things that I would like to see in the community," Calhoun said. "The Blacksville area is one of the oldest areas in the county. Our roads in that area are run down [and] I would like to know what plans are being made to improve the streets in our area."

Calhoun also asked city leaders to consider installing a sidewalk running the length of Phillips Drive, from Griffin Road to Ga. Highway 20/81.

"We've got children walking to school, and adults walking in the street," he said. "The road is not wide enough for two or three cars, and that's a danger."

"Your questions are legitimate. We have no money specifically budgeted for sidewalks," Beckett told Calhoun.

During the meeting, Calhoun suggested the city use money from the 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), or establish a joint venture with the state, to find the money for sidewalks.

The city has bond money set aside to spend on specific projects, including construction of a water tank, water line improvements, and improvements to Alexander Park, Beckett said.

"We budgeted the money this year, and most of the sales tax money is for big projects, relating to the water line improvements associated with the water tank," Beckett said. "There is a block of money reserved, possibly for the purchase of public buildings. Having said all that, there is no specific money budgeted for Blacksville."

Stewart said Wednesday that safety in the area is an issue.

"There are a large number of cars that come through there," he said. "That's my main concern ... the traffic and those kids."

Stewart said the city could seek partnerships with other government agencies to help fund road improvements.

"Our plan is to put sidewalks on Phillips Drive, although I don't know how long that will take," he added.